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gPortfolios: a pragmatic approach to online asynchronous assignments

Daniel Hickey (Department of Learning Sciences, Indiana University Bloomington School of Education, Bloomington, Indiana, USA)
Jody Duncan (Department of Biology, Monroe County Community School System, Bloomington, USA)
Courtney Gaylord (Department of Social Studies, Indiana University High School, Bloomington, Indiana, USA)
Christine Hitchcock (Department of English, Indiana University High School, Bloomington, Indiana, USA)
Rebecca Chiyoko Itow (Principal, Indiana University High School, Bloomington, Indiana, USA)
Shelby Elizabeth Stephens (Independent Consultant, Charleston, South Carolina, USA)

Information and Learning Sciences

ISSN: 2398-5348

Article publication date: 16 July 2020

Issue publication date: 27 July 2020




The purpose of this paper is sharing out basic guidelines and examples from an extended collaboration to move educators move online while avoiding synchronous meetings. “gPortfolios” are public (to the class) pages where students write responses to carefully constructed engagement routines. Students then discuss their work with instructors and peers in threaded comments. gPortfolios usually include engagement reflections, formative self-assessments and automated quizzes. These assessments support and document learning while avoiding instructor “burnout” from grading. gPortfolios can be implemented using Google Docs and Forms or any learning management system.


The authors report practical insights gained from design-based implementation research. This research explored the late Randi Engle’s principles for productive disciplinary engagement and expansive framing. Engle used current theories of learning to foster student discussions that were both authentic to the academic discipline at hand and productive for learning. This research also used new approaches to assessment to support Engle’s principles. This resulted in a comprehensive approach to online instruction and assessment that is effective and efficient for both students and teachers.


The approach “frames” (i.e. contextualizes) online engagement using each learners’ own experiences, perspectives and goals. Writing this revealed how this was different in different courses. Secondary biology students framed each assignment independently. Secondary English and history students framed assignments as elements of a personalized capstone presentation; the history students further used a self-selected “historical theme.” Graduate students framed each assignment in an educational assessment course using a real or imagined curricular aim and context.


Engle’s ideas have yet to be widely taken up in online education.



This article is part of the special issue, “A Response to Emergency Transitions to Remote Online Education in K-12 and Higher Education” which contains shorter, rapid-turnaround invited works, not subject to double blind peer review. The issue was called, managed and produced on short timeline in Summer 2020 towards pragmatic instructional application in the Fall 2020 semester.


Hickey, D., Duncan, J., Gaylord, C., Hitchcock, C., Itow, R.C. and Stephens, S.E. (2020), "gPortfolios: a pragmatic approach to online asynchronous assignments", Information and Learning Sciences, Vol. 121 No. 5/6, pp. 273-283.



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